Simon Reynolds: Generation Ecstasy

Simon Reynolds: Generation Ecstasy

Newcomers to house, techno, and every other post-disco permutation of dance music might think a book on club culture is a bit premature. But electronic dance music has developed a lot faster in the past 20 years than one might have imagined, and the impact of the music on society continues to grow more apparent—baggy pants, anyone? Simon Reynolds' Generation Ecstasy traces the rise of rave music from its start in the Chicago/Detroit house and techno scene in the '80s to (arguably) its cultural apex in the hands of contemporary drug-addled U.K. club kids. Like the surge of idealism and radical thought that reached its height at the end of the '60s, rave culture remained "pure" only for a brief moment, until, like so many things, it was co-opted, exploited, and left devoid of meaning. It's like a microcosm of America's hippie counterculture experience, with virtually the same hedonistic, euphoric beliefs compressed into the more overtly consumerist milieu of the modern world. Except, unlike hippie culture, techno has continued to exist and develop as a viable underground phenomenon. Reynolds writes like a cross between a rock critic and an anthropologist, a combination that occasionally makes the subject of Generation Ecstasy more esoteric than it needs to be. In true trainspotter fashion, he's fixated on musical nuances that will be invisible to all but the most fanatic of techno enthusiasts. Yet Reynolds makes a good point when he identifies with a whole generation of post-punk music listeners for whom hip-hop, techno, dub, and their variants were ground zero. For anyone growing up in the span of time Reynolds writes about, the Kraftwerk-and-beyond music he chronicles could be more familiar than The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. In this gilded age of electronica, Generation Ecstasy serves an interesting, paradoxical purpose: It defines a history for a cultural movement that's currently redefining history.

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